Aspire Wild Gifts makes art economical
July 22, 2006
Kathy Harmston, owner of Aspire Wild Gifts, wanted to be a dancer as a little girl. She would fouette in the family room, leap in the living room and piroutette in the parlor. Every room seemed to be toe-shoe approved.
During her six years as a professional dancer in Chicago and Cleveland ballet companies, she wanted to come west. This time, fate would intervene.
"I was driving across the country to audition for Ballet West in Salt Lake and I wrecked my car in Iowa," Harmston said. "I took a Greyhound bus the rest of the way and it turned out they weren’t hiring anyway. But the University of Utah offered me a full scholarship to be in their dance program, so I took that."
In the car wreck, Harmston ripped the ligaments supporting her cervical vertebrae. She tried to dance through the pain, but her scholarship was eventually taken away.
"I could hardly even move anymore," I got a job as a physical therapy rehab aide at a hospital and I switched schools to Utah State."
Now, over 10 years later, she has a master’s degree in communications disorders, a family and a new Park City business. Her degree gives her the chance to work part-time at Primary Children’s Hospital, her two boys give her the chance to be a full-time mom and her love for photography and the outdoors gives her the chance to custom make greeting cards to sell for the business she runs out of her home.
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"I’ve been doing photography for a long time and we’re backwoodsy type of people and we do a lot of outdoor things and a lot of climbing," she said. "That’s where we like to shoot our photos. I love the Park City galleries, but they’re just too expensive to buy for gifts."
Harmston also works with local artists to sell unique handmade gifts, along with her cards, on her website, http://www.aspirewildgifts.com. Although her first month hasn’t seen a whirlwind of orders, she’s already seen individuals who want to purchase gifts as well as businesses that want prizes and bonuses for their employees.
"Sales are slow, but World Class Realty has done some gift orders and they’re going to have me do a business presentation to their office and I’m going the Heber Farmers Market to try to do some business there as well," she said.
Harmston and her husband Chris take the majority of their photos in the Uinta Mountains. Many have been printed commercially, so she thought she might as well go into business for herself, earn money and still get to be home with the boys, ages three and eight.
"That’s why I started the business — I wanted something to keep my mind going while I’m at home and I’ve just always loved photography," she said. "It just made sense."
She needed to be home because her oldest son, 5-year-old Paul, has Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the highly functional end of autism.
"We moved up here from Salt Lake because we liked the fresh air quality," she said. "Both our boys have asthma as well and we needed to get out the city for health reasons. They are much healthier up here for sure."
When the Harmstons moved to Francis two and a half years ago, she got involved at the Kimball Art Center, where she ended up meeting several of the artists whose art and gifts she currently sells.
"I’ve met a lot of people through the Kimball Art center," she said. "Two of my artists I met there: one was my ceramics teacher, Eric Christiansen, and another was my friend Gail Ann Kowalski, who’s been doing stained glass in Park City for 20 years."
From ceramics to woodcraft, and mountaineering block prints to hand-painted silk scarves, she works with artists who do just about anything and everything, but she is always looking for more talent to add to the pool.
"I’m not a professional artist," said Kowalski. "I don’t sell my art; I just do it and give it away. But Kathy asked me if I’d like to do it and I said ‘why not?’ It will help me build up confidence to do it and it might inspire me enough to finally sell something on my own."
Kowalski has wanted to start her own glass shop in Park City since she first moved to the mountain city, and she said this might be the push she needs.
"It’s a fun business, and a good product," Kowalski said. "I love the website and what it has to offer so hopefully this can get going."
Aspire Wild Gifts can be reached at http://www.aspirewildgifts.com, a secure website that includes short bios of each of the artists as well as samples of their work.